Avenham Park was one of my favourite places to spend time when I was a student back in the mid 1990s.
Did I learn anything about the park’s history back then? Possibly…. though the fact that I hadn’t even noticed that what I considered to be one large park, separated by the railway line which closed in 1970, is actually two, Avenham Park and Miller Park… rather indicates that I didn’t.
So, much of my walking around Preston, as I limber up for the hike across Warwickshire with Chris, has helped to rectify this.
Avenham Park and Miller Park were inaugurated on the same day that the former Town Hall was opened in 1867. On September 28, 1867 the Preston Chronicle commented that the preparations were in place and that the expectation was that “…….we shall have a gayer, a busier, and a more bustling town than we have had on any previous occasion, excepting, perhaps, at some of our Guilds.”
Quite frequently, the rain had encouraged me to head for Avenham and Miller Parks rather than ‘cross country’ and one morning…
“You’d have got a great shot if you’d been here on Saturday,” called a man walking his two dogs. “Two roe deer standing on the boulevard here.”
“The deer followed the old train tracks down from East Lancashire and there’s a few living in here,” he continued. “I’ve seen all sorts in here. Stoats, weasels and three otters down by the river. I’ll never forget the date, 2nd December…”
He nodded to his small white terrier. “…She wasn’t with me. She needed a haircut – summat she can’t get now.”
A haircut was becoming a pressing issue for me. I hadn’t thought about dog grooming needs.
“Look, there’s a robin,” the man pointed. “I feed him all winter.”
“Looks like he’s waiting for you,” I said.
“I’ve got nowt for him. He can bugger off.”
Turning to the robin: “Find your own scran,” he said and set off walking across the park.
Substantial work has been undertaken in recent years to restore many of the original features with the 2011 Dolphin Fountain being one of my favourites.
That’s no dolphin, you may point out and you would be right. It’s a sea serpent but it’s known locally as the dolphin fountain.
Not because of any local failings in an understanding of natural history.
In the 1860s, a green marble dolphin fountain was installed in a stone alcove in the park. At some point in the late 19th century, it was replaced with a sea serpent drinking fountain. However, the dolphin name stuck.
It was completely removed about 50 years ago but this replica returned as part of the park’s restoration.
The parks’ appearance have changed several times over the last 150 years. One example is the Belvedere which originally stood in Miller Park but was moved in 1875, ten years after installation, to make way for the Earl of Derby… the statue apparently more likely than people to enjoy the view.
The Earl overlooks the Victorian fountain which features four figures, representing the elements: earth, air, fire and water. When it first opened the fountain jet could reach 60feet into the air. Apparently, today’s display is more modest.
I don’t know if it was a deliberate design feature but love how the four women look like they have a nice warm blanket across their knees.
Behind the fountain is the Award Winning Lancashire Pavillion in #AvenhamPark. It won a gold medal at the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 and it was presented to the people of Preston in 1989, the centenary of Lancashire County Council.
Back in Avenham Park, one of my favourite areas is the Japanese Garden which was added in the 1930s when this type of design became fashionable.
The two parks are mostly sweeping lawns edged with groves of trees and flower beds filled with rhododendrons and roses… were they the Lancashire Roses or were they just roses in Lancashire?
The red rose was first adopted as a heraldic device by the first Earl of Lancaster. It was one of the badges of Henry IV, the first king of the House of Lancaster. Following the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, it became the emblem of Lancashire.
The Rose of Lancaster is thought to have been developed in response to the Yorkist white rose. At a time when signs and symbols were more powerful than words – literacy levels were not high – it was a fine bit of branding. …Leading to an even more effective advertising exercise with the creation of the Tudor Rose.
Was it actually used during the Wars of the Roses?
It was only afterwards that the wars gained a botanical name. At the time the battles were known as part of the Cousins’ War and, as it had been fought on and off for the thirty years BEFORE the Rose of Lancaster was adopted, it’s unlikely the wars did have such a pretty name.
And speaking of wars, Avenham Park is also home to two cannons which are replicas of the originals presented to Preston from the Siege of Sebastopol which ended the Crimean War. Two regiments from Preston served at the Siege.
Thankfully, all quiet on the Preston front these days.
And as a reminder of the reason for this training, it’s to get ready for a walk in the Name of Thiago with my friend Chris. He starts walking in just under two weeks and is just over £1000 away from his target.